UNLIKE the Division One final, there are no medals for history-makers but this Dublin team yesterday didn’t need them to realise they have become pioneers of the game in the capital.
Reaching the county’s first All-Ireland semi-final in 63 years, they showed a maturity worthy of such an accomplishment.
In the face of adversity, losing their best hurler in the Leinster championship, Conal Keaney in such dramatic and cruel circumstances, they sucked it up and shone.
Undoubtedly, they were inspired by his absence, his video message to them shown yesterday morning a real rallying call.
The thing is this progress should have come a lot earlier than this. Against the same opposition at the same stage two years ago, they left the game behind them. Then Antrim last year... the least said about that the better.
But here it was almost as if they had finally become the team worthy of breaking the mould.
With nine minutes left, Limerick had reduced the gap to two after being five behind at the break, 3-6 to 0-10.
They then proceeded to shoot three wides in the two and a half minutes.
Dublin didn’t need to be reminded that they had to punish such wastefulness and it was their three-goal hero Ryan O’Dwyer who conjured a point out of nothing in the 65th minute.
Faced by a couple of Limerick defenders, he managed to bully his way past before offloading to Liam Rushe and taking a return pass to split the posts while falling.
O’Dwyer had to depart the fray minutes later with a head injury and the time required to tend to him took the zip out of the game.
Substitute Shane Ryan put the polish on the finish but the game was bossed by O’Dwyer and Peter Kelly, who was totemic at full-back and doing much to neutralise the threat of Kevin Downes.
O’Dwyer’s first goal came in the fifth minute when he brushed off Tom Condon to strike past Nicky Quaid.
Limerick responded with points from Donal O’Grady and Declan Hannon, Limerick’s best player on the day.
But their last line of defence was breached again in the 11th minute when Alan McCrabbe crossed a ball in O’Dwyer’s direction and the Cashel man finished with aplomb into the top corner.
That put Dublin 2-2 to 0-5 to the good and Paul Ryan took advantage of the afterglow to bag a quick-fire brace, one a free and the other after an exchange with Rushe.
After another Hannon point, Dublin responded with two of their own although Gary Maguire had to be at his best to stretch and deny Sean Tobin’s deflected shot.
If Limerick were having no luck at the Town End, O’Dwyer, was having plenty of it in front of the Killinan Terrace.
After Brian Geary was dispossessed, O’Callaghan had his goal attempt saved by Quaid but O’Dwyer had anticipated well to follow up and bury the rebound.
O’Dwyer’s goals now separated the sides, 3-6 to 0-6, but Dublin were unable to score for the next 18 minutes.
The half ended with a trio of different scores (a free, a 65 and one from play) from Hannon with Downes adding another for good measure.
Limerick started the restart as positively as they finished the opening 35 minutes, a booming Gavin O’Mahony free followed by a scintillating Hannon point on the wing.
The Adare man subsequently slotted over his second free of the game and Dublin’s lead had been narrowed to two, 3-6 to 0-13.
Ryan pulled Dublin out of their slumber with a couple of frees and they were helped by some poor decision making by Limerick’s attack, especially Niall Moran in the 50th minute when he sacrificed a good scoring chance to advance further towards Maguire’s goal.
Ryan pointed another free when he was upended by Wayne McNamara before Hannon and O’Callaghan swapped scores.
O’Callaghan’s point was Dublin’s first from play in 32 minutes but they didn’t need to wait as long for their next as Ryan pucked over a beautiful effort from the left wing.
They needed it to after Downes had dispossessed Paul Schutte and Hannon converted a free won by Hannon.
Another booming O’Mahony free made it a two-point game, 3-11 to 0-18, but Limerick couldn’t make the most of their domination in the possession stakes.
In all, they registered 13 wides, four of them came in those last 10 minutes when there was a suggestion the game was theirs for the taking.
O’Dwyer had other ideas, though
Scorers for Dublin: R O’Dwyer 3-2; P Ryan 0-8 (6f); L Rushe, D Callaghan S Ryan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Limerick: D Hannon 0-11 (4f, 1 65); K Downes, B Geary, G O’Mahony (2f) 0-2 each; D O’Grady 0-1.
Subs for Dublin: D Treacy for McCormack (32); S Lambert for McCrabbe (44); D Plunkett for O’Brien (51); D Sutcliffe for Durkin (61); S Ryan for O’Callaghan (65); D Curtin for O’Dwyer (temp 69-FT).
Subs for Limerick: S Walsh for Geary (28); D Breen for Tobin (50); R McCarthy for Moran (54); S Lucey for O’Grady.
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).
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